Because of The Touch

You’d think that paying the price for another would come with a bit of honor. That laying down your life for someone else’s sin would demand a bit of dignity when disposing of the body. But as I hover over Leviticus 4 this morning, I’m chewing on the picture presented of a substitutionary sacrifice that gets little respect.

It’s the sin offering. The offering to be presented when someone, anyone, sins unintentionally. Whether it’s the priest, the congregation as a whole, one of their leaders, or one of the common people, when someone sins unintentionally and they realize their guilt they are to bring a sin offering. The animal is to be killed. Its blood to be shed, offered before the Lord, and poured out at the altar. Then the fat and vital organs are to be burned on the altar.

The life given of a spotless substitute. Its blood shed. It best parts offered up. You’d think then that disposing of the rest would be done in a way that shows a high regard for the sacrifice. Apparently not.

But the skin of the bull and all its flesh, with its head, its legs, its entrails, and its dung–all the rest of the bull–he shall carry outside the camp to a clean place, to the ash heap, and shall burn it up on a fire of wood. On the ash heap it shall be burned up. . . . And the priest shall make atonement for them, and they shall be forgiven. And he shall carry the bull outside the camp and burn it up . . .

(Leviticus 4:11-12 , 20b-21a ESV)

Though the place was to be ceremonially clean, to me the ultimate disposition of the carcass seems somewhat unceremonious in nature. Dumped on the ash heap. Whatever’s left burned outside the camp. The best of the sacrifice leveraged for atoning forgiveness, the rest of the sacrifice left in abandoning obscurity.

How come? I’m thinking it’s because of the touch.

In every instance where the sin offering is offered, it begins with the sinner laying his hand on the head of the sacrifice before he kills. it. A transference of the debt they should pay for with their life to the one whose life would be offered instead. Their sin laid upon their offering. And with that translocation of iniquity came the defilement of the spotless substitute. A clean sacrifice made unclean. Thus disposed of outside the camp.

And I find myself thinking about how my spotless Lamb, come to atone for my sin, suffered a similar humiliation.

Because He allowed my hand to touch Him, taking my sin upon Himself, He too was taken outside the camp, to a hill outside of Jerusalem. What’s more, he was mocked, abused, robed in purple, and required to carry His own cross. Though His blood would be shed for the remission of the sin of many, though His life offered to bear the just wrath deserved by others, there was no honor afforded the Lamb of God.

Even after His blood was shed and His life was given, His body was scooped up, hastily prepared for burial, and tucked away without fanfare in an obscure tomb lest His death taint the observance of a holy day.

How come? Because of the touch.

Because He who knew no sin became sin for us (2Cor. 5:21). Because He who eternally is holy submitted to the Father’s will and “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'” (Gal. 3:13).

Having taken on the sin of another, disposed of outside the camp on an ash heap.

And that because of the touch. When, by faith, we responded to His invitation to reach out our hands and lay our sin upon Him.

O, what a Savior!

What amazing grace! To Him be everlasting glory!

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A Generous Heart

Can’t remember the last time, if there was a last time, that I was chewing on my morning readings on a Sunday morning. The snow and subsequent deep freeze here forced the decision to cancel Sunday services. Weird.

Anyway, finished up Exodus this morning. The tabernacle is built, the glory has descended. God is in their midst.

But what I’m chewing on this morning is the catalyst behind the tabernacle blueprints becoming the tabernacle built. What enabled an idea on the mountain to take form on the ground. And it wasn’t just God’s Spirit-powered enabling of the craftsmen (35:30-35). Even before that, before the materials could be constructed into an end product, there had to be materials. And what sourced them? A generous heart.

Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded. Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD’s contribution . . . (Exodus 35:4-5 ESV)

What’s grabbed me is that, while the contribution to the tabernacle project was commanded of God, it was for “whoever is of a generous heart.” A command given to all. But one which God wanted obeyed not just of cold, submissive compliance, but of an enthusiastic, large-hearted response. This was to be a “freewill offering” in the fullest sense of the term (3:29).

Repeatedly the God pleasing heart of giving is echoed by the Spirit in this passage.

And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the LORD’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the LORD.

(Exodus 35:21-21 ESV)

Their hearts were stirred. Their spirits moved. And of a willing heart they gave liberally to the work of the Lord. Gave of their treasures. And, for those with the God-given ability, gave of their talents. All giving generously.

Though I’m sitting here this morning by myself when I so want to be gathered with the saints, I’m also profoundly aware of how the Lord’s generosity begets generosity. How the Lord’s abundant grace evokes a desire to respond with abundant praise. How, having been moved to appreciate the magnitude of what has been freely received, the heart longs in response to gather with the saints to freely give (Matt. 10:8b).

That it was a movement of God is obvious. Wouldn’t be long before the grumbling would start again. But at this time, for this season, the people of God responded to the command of God with a willing, generous heart. Oh, to be that people. Oh, to live in that season.

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

(2Corinthians 9:7 ESV)

God loves a cheerful giver. He is pleased with a generous heart.

O Spirit move our hearts, stir our souls. That to You we might freely give.

Because of Your grace. Only for Your glory.

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Moses Worshiped When Moses Asked

It was over. That holy, sacred, once in a lifetime encounter of the divine kind had ceased. The goodness of God has passed before Moses. The cloud had descended. The name of the LORD had been proclaimed. From the protection of the cleft of the rock the glory of God had appeared, the back of God had been seen. God’s light had shone and then was gone. His voice had declared and then was silent. It was over. And Moses felt He needed to respond . . . Immediately!

And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Your inheritance.”

(Exodus 34:8-9 ESV)

Moses had asked Jehovah to see His glory (33:18) and the Existing One complied. Big ask. Even bigger answer. You’d think that would have been the end of the asking. Nope! Moses continued to petition. Asked for three things: 1) go in our midst; 2) pardon our sin; 3) take us for Your own. In essence, fulfill Your promise.

And here’s what grabbed me about Moses’ continuing supplication. It was worship.

Hearing the voice cease, knowing the LORD was passing on, Moses hastily went facedown lest he lose the favorable opportunity before him. He bowed and he begged. And I think, “Wait a minute. Asking isn’t worshiping. I know the prayer model. ACTS . . . Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. I’ve been warned about going too quickly to my requests. That I need to work up to it, acknowledge first who God is before I ask Him for what I want. TACO . . . Thanksgiving, Adoration, Confession, Others.”

Wait just a minute! Moses worshiped when Moses asked? Apparently.

Moses saw the glory of God. He was there. Not quite face to face, but back to face, and that’s pretty close. And before it was over, Moses prostrated himself and pled his case. And it was worship.

I get the warnings about being so consumed with supplication that we forget who we are supplicating before. I’m a proponent of being still and knowing He is God before monopolizing the conversation with all that I desire God do. But this morning I’m also reminded that God is exalted when He is entreated.

Our ask is acknowledging His ability to answer. Our meager prayers offered only because we know His majestic power. Our supplications and desires to the Father, a pronouncement of faith that, through the cross, He has made us His sons and daughters.

And when that ask is for more of His presence so that we might be more His people, it is worship of the highest degree. We who were once in rebellion now pleading for deeper relationship. We who once had gone our own way, now asking that He would show us increasingly His way. We who once thought we could do life on our own, now seizing the opportunity to cry out, “Lord, I need You!” And in that, God is worshiped.

Sometimes we’re gonna go straight to “S” and bypass “ACT”. And when that is done with heads bowed and hearts lifted it is worship.

Worship by the grace of God. Worship for the glory of God.

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What Makes Us Distinct

One of a kind. Special. Unique. Unlike anyone else. Guys like Ripley and Guinness have made a living off of it. Nothing like a world record to set someone apart. And who can’t help but feel like a one-of-a-kind if what they do, or who they are, borders on the unbelievable? As I noodle on it, don’t we all, deep down, want to be special? To have something or to do something that makes us distinct? I’m thinkin’ . . .

But I’m also wondering if, as the people of God, we often look to the wrong “somethings.” That we try to scratch the itch of notoriety with the wrong stuff. That we’re seeking the wrong accomplishments, or performing before the wrong audience, or hoping to go viral with the wrong video as we try to find our 15 minutes of fame. And we’re missing that our greatest distinctive may just be the thing we are most prone to take for granted.

Moses said to the LORD, “. . . Now therefore, if I have found favor in Your sight, please show me now Your ways, that I may know You in order to find favor in Your sight. Consider too that this nation is Your people.” And He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to Him, “If Your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not in Your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?‘”

(Exodus 33:12-16 ESV)

The Mount Sinai rest stop had almost busted the Promise-Land-Or-Bust caravan of liberated Egyptian slaves. New found freedom, along with some misguided spirituality, had almost derailed the mission. Dancing around a golden calf, worshiping it as the gods who had brought them out of Egypt, has a way of putting a wrench in the spokes of forward momentum. And so, after some rebuke, after some retribution (think 3,000 dead), after some intercession, the congregation of Israel is ready to move on towards the promise of a land flowing with milk and honey.

But before they do, Moses wants to make sure of one thing. “God, are You coming?” To which God replies, “My presence will go with you.” To which Moses replies, “Yes! Without that, there’s no point in trying to move on. Because that’s what makes us distinct.”

The presence of God. That’s what sets apart the people of God from all other people. God in the midst. That’s what make us special. Flesh and bone residences for the Spirit of God. That’s what makes us unlike anyone else. Possessing a 24/7 open invitation to boldly enter into the holy of holies and approach the King of Glory’s throne of grace. Feeling kind of special? Should be!

That’s our world record. It is the reality of our out of this world connection. That’s our believe it or not claim to fame. That by believing, He has claimed us as His own. The proof of which is found in His presence.

We are unlike others. And that, because of His going with us. It’s not in what we’ve done, or who we think we are, but in who He has redeemed us to be.

In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

(Ephesians 2:22 ESV)

A dwelling place for God. That’s our identity. That’s our claim to fame. That’s what makes us distinct.

And it’s not so we can boast, but so we can press on toward the promise. So that after we have stumbled, and His kindness has led us to repentance, and we’ve spit out the bitter dust of our ground up idols, we can keep on keepin’ on.

Knowing His presence will go with us. Knowing that we are His people. A special people. A one of a kind people. A distinct people.

Because of His grace. And for His glory.

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The Sign of Sanctification

It wasn’t commanded because God knew that their dust based frame needed regular downtime if it was going to function at maximum efficiency. Though it was founded as an indicator of a work finished and complete, its intent was more than just as a regular religious observance. While there may be practical benefit and theological significance in observing a Sabbath rest, as I encountered in my reading in Exodus this morning, above all it was to be a reminder. A tangible act recalling a divine truth–a truth so easy to forget. The Sabbath was to be the sign of sanctification.

And the LORD said to Moses, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep My Sabbaths, for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.'”

(Exodus 31:12-13 ESV)

For the last 10 chapters it’s been about what to do. Moses has been in a one-on-one with the God of deliverance and redemption and has been given ten commandments, a myriad of laws, and explicit, detailed instructions for building the tabernacle, its furnishings, and the priestly garments. Talk about an out-of-control to do list!

Where do I start? What comes first? Are some the commandments more important than others? Should some of the laws be instituted now rather than later? Maybe getting folks to donate now to the Tabernacle Building Project should be the priority. And then God says, “Above all . . . ”

And it’s not really above all in the sense of do it first, but above all in the sense of, if you do anything, make sure this gets done. Above all in the sense of this is foundational. Do this, and do it in a thoughtful, meaningful, intentional way, and the rest will fall into line. “Above all you shall keep My Sabbaths.”

Why the primacy of a day set apart? Because it was a sign. A reminder. A physical reminder that disrupted daily routine. A physical reminder of a spiritual truth that must never be forgotten if the people of God were to walk in the ways of God as God had commanded. A reminder He is Jehovah, the existing One, and that He had set them apart for Himself.

They weren’t just a congregation, they were the promised congregation. They were more than a nation, they had been carved out to be a holy nation. They weren’t just a people, they were the people of God. Set apart. Sanctified. And thus, setting apart a day from their busy schedules was to be above all for it would remind them of who they were and, Whose they were.

Keep the Sabbath and keeping the commands would come. Regularly remind themselves that they were set apart for God’s glory and His purposes, and obedience to the law would come from love-fueled response and not religion-demanded regulation. Frequently know afresh that they had been brought out of bondage through the mighty works of God, and rallying around building a place for His glory to dwell would be their joy.

The people of God need to be reminded–FREQUENTLY–that they are the people of God. That they are not their own, but have been set apart by the LORD’s goodness for the LORD’s glory.

The thought was reinforced for me in my Acts reading this morning where Paul is having his final meeting with the Ephesian elders and exhorting them to care for the Ephesian flock.

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood.

(Acts 20:28 ESV)

He obtained the church. Literally, He set it around Himself that it might be for Himself. And this He did by purchasing it with His own blood.

We are not our own. We have been purchased with a price. And a regular, frequent act of breaking from our busy schedules is a sign, a tangible reminder, that we have been sanctified. That we have been set apart for Him. Get this locked in and, I’m thinking, the rest has a way of falling into place. Lose this . . . ignore this . . . don’t believe this . . . and maybe, just maybe, what you get is wandering in the desert.

Thinking this morning that keeping a sign of sanctification “above all” really should be above all.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Clothes Really Do Make the Man (or Woman)

Apparently it comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But,while it’s old, if you don’t hear it a lot these days, you certainly see it. That “the apparel oft proclaims the man” is still very much in play. In fact, that “clothes make the man” seems to have been an operating truth for millennia.

Whether it’s taken as a “law of nature” that people will try to express themselves through what they wear, or taken as a mark of shallowness of those who try to fake who they are by what they put on, there’s often a connection between clothes and character, attire and attitude, wardrobe and weirdness, or finery and fakery.

But is the observation biblical? This morning, as I read in Exodus, it occurs to me that, in a sense, it is.

Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve Me as priests–Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for My priesthood. . . . They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve Me as priests.

(Exodus 28:1-4 ESV)

In past years, when I’ve been in this part of Exodus, I have found myself focused on the intricate detail of how the tabernacle and it’s furnishings were to be built more so than how the priestly garments were to be made. But for some reason this year, I’ve somewhat skimmed the tabernacle instructions, reading them more as a reminder, and instead have been arrested by the directions given for the tailoring of Aaron & Co.’s clothing.

Kind of a big deal being tagged to be a priest of the Most High. And, it would seem, along with the high calling there was to be an over-the-top outfit. Gold and precious stones required for the ephod and breastplate. Fine yarns and twine demanded for expertly sown pieces of outer wear. A golden crown engraved and fitted on a turban for the head, an intricately woven coat of checker work for the body. They were to be arrayed “for glory and for beauty.” Holy garments were required for a holy calling.

True of God’s holy priesthood back then. True of us, His holy priesthood (1Pet. 2:5), today.

But the clothes that make this man are not fashioned at the hands of men. Their material far more precious than gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. No, the clothes that make this man are the garments of Another. Garments fashioned and freely given by Another.

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation; He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

(Isaiah 61:10 ESV)

Clothed with the garments of salvation. Covered with the robe of righteousness. Clothes not of my own making but designed by the love of the Father, fashioned through the finished work of the Son, and tailored for a perfect fit by the ever-present work of the Spirit. Not because of my worthiness, but because of mercy and grace. Not for my glory and beauty, but to reflect His.

Oh, might I never take for granted my priestly garb. Might I always be mindful of wearing my calling’s clothes. May I be careful of soiling its sacred threads. Grant me the holy determination to, as much lies in me, wear it in a worthy way.

Clothes make the man. Clothes make the woman. Praise God for what He has made of the man and the woman in Christ with the clothes of Christ.

By His grace. For His glory.

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He Heard

What were they thinking? Hadn’t they just walked out of Egypt loaded down with Egyptian plunder? Hadn’t they just walked on dry ground through walls of water that once were the impassible Red Sea? Hadn’t they witnessed those same waters come crashing down on their enemies’ chariots, completing destroying those who would force them back into bondage and slavery? Short answer . . . Yes? So what were they thinking?

What were they thinking when they started to murmur against Moses, “Great show last night, Mo. But did anybody think about how we’re going to eat? I’m getting hungry!” What were they thinking as they whispered under their breath, “Does God have any idea what He’s doing? Has He started something He can’t finish? At least in Egypt there was meat and bread to eat. What do we do now?” Did they think that because they muttered it under their breath that God didn’t hear?

Guess what! He heard!

The whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, . . . And the LORD said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel.”

(Exodus 16:2, 11-12a ESV)

The repetition in the first part of Exodus 16 is deafening. The drum beats again and again. Grumbling . . . grumbling . . . grumbling . . . grumbling!

Eight times in the first twelve verses . . . it rumbles with grumble.

Obstinate in heart, sarcastic in tongue. Talking under their breath against Moses and Aaron, but actually shaking their fists at God. Lack of food the least of their problems given their lack of faith. What were they thinking? Would God really deliver them from slavery in Egypt so that they could die of starvation in the wilderness? I’m thinkin’ not. But how often do our irrational, unbelieving hearts trump the facts that our faith is built upon.

But more than being instructed concerning the hardness of the human heart, I’m more blown away by the response of a gracious God.

So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because He has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against Him —  what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD.” Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the LORD, for He has heard your grumbling.’”

(Exodus 16:6-9 ESV)

You wanna grumble? I’m going to show you My glory. Wanna complain about how little I care? You’re going to feast on meat at night and manna in the morning. Wanna whisper behind My back? Come near and I’ll show you My blessing.

Who answers like that? Our God. Our slow to anger, compassionate, grace-exuding God of steadfast love.

He knows our cynical whispering and still moves to meet our need. He hears our ego-centered complaining and doubles down on revealing His glory. He endures our obstinate murmuring and yet beckons us to know Him more.

I know what they were thinking. Cause I’m prone to go there too. To grumble against the God of my deliverance. To question the God who has shown again and again His might. To whisper against, if only in my heart, the God who has given me unfailing promises.

He heard. And He still hears. But He blessed. And He still blesses. Acting to meet our need, show His glory, and invite us to come near.

Grace beyond grace. For His glory alone.

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